Don’t let approval addiction sabotage you in the workplace.
This article originally appeared in Rebel Magazine.
Some men consider themselves lucky to even have a job these days, while others sit comfortably at the top of the corporate ladder. And then there are those men who have a job and have been stuck in the same old position for years. While they have dreams of promotions to management and the C Suite, there’s something holding them back.
It’s not a lack of job performance or that management doesn’t like them, but rather a more serious psychological problem that’s probably affecting all areas of their lives. It’s called approval addiction, which means you value others’ opinions above your own.
It stems from believing, “I won’t be loved or accepted unless others approve of my behavior.” Many mental health experts are convinced this addiction is worse than addiction to drugs, booze or sex, because it’s conformity at any cost, and it impacts everything we do in life.
Approval addiction is usually deeply rooted, dating back to a much earlier time in our lives. There was probably a time or times when someone close to you emphatically disagreed to the point you felt hurt, shocked and like you were run over by a Mack truck. It could have been a parent, sibling, best friend or teacher. It could have also been an experience in a public setting where many people disapproved. In some cases, the approval addict can recite criticism he or she received 50 years ago word for word.
Regardless of what triggered your approval addiction, the key is to look ahead and overcome this so it doesn’t interfere with your career and other areas of your life.
There are a number of common thoughts around career-related approval addiction: What if other people don’t agree with me? What will happen if I make my presentation and my co-workers think my ideas don’t make sense? I think I have a great idea for this new project, but nobody will ever go along with it. It’s better to keep quiet and stay below the radar because I really can’t take the criticism. I can’t be myself at work because no one will like the real me.
My reputation will be ruined if … Making mistakes is not an option. I would be so embarrassed if a co-worker had to correct me.
One Man’s Example
Scott works in the marketing department of a national electronics retailer. He’s not in an entry-level position, but because of his prior experience he’s considered a junior account manager role. His job duties have him helping with advertising campaigns, industry trade shows and market research. Scott has worked at this company in the same role for more than two years. While he’s a good employee, smart, and always on time, he’s been overlooked for several promotions.
Scott recently had an idea that could boost sales and show a stronger ROI on marketing campaigns. While his idea seemed good in his own mind, he knew the company would have to front some money to implement it, and he was only 80 percent sure it would actually prove successful. Still, it would be worth speaking to management about it.
The problem for Scott is that he suffers from approval addiction, so he kept the idea to himself. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In fact, there have been several occasions during department meetings when others questioned Scott for being so quiet. It’s not that he’s shy or introverted; he’s just extremely addicted to the approval of others.
In his mind, getting all of his co-workers and management to always be 100 percent in agreement with him is more important than anything else. He needs that validation from others in order to feel good about himself. Scott often wonders why he can’t just be himself during work, speak his mind, give input and stop being a people-pleaser.
At least for Scott, he was working in a career he chose. Some men hold jobs in fields that don’t interest them. The reason: to please someone else.
Mike grew up in an upper-class family. His dad was the partner in a statewide law firm, and his mom was very successful in real estate. He had everything a kid could need or want growing up, did well in school, had plenty of friends and participated in extracurricular activities.
The one thing he also had his share of was pressure to perform.
Mike’s parents made him study constantly, sit at the piano practicing for hours at a time and demand nothing but perfection. From the way his dad spoke, Mike pretty much inherited a career in law while he was still a toddler.
Sure enough, Mike graduated at the top of his class, graduated from law school and took a job with a law firm. As smart as Mike is, he never became a great lawyer. He bluffed his way through his job each day, but deep down inside, he was miserable.
He was living somebody else’s dream. The one thing Mike loved more than anything else growing up was cars. He dreamed of building them, taking them apart and even racing them. He never pursued that dream because he knew his parents would never approve. He was making good money practicing law, but always felt as if something was missing.
In the worst cases, approval addiction can eventually lead to depression. Those suffering usually reach a breaking point when they realize they are doing everything in their lives to make other people happy and not doing anything to fulfill their own dreams and aspirations.
At this point, it will be much more than your career; everything you do will be severely impacted.
If you are addicted to the approval of others and it interferes with your career or any other area of your life, seek professional help. Find a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy who can help you focus on your emotions, behaviors and thought process.
The good news is that once you overcome approval addiction to any significant degree, you’re free of the psychological chains that bind you from ever experiencing world-class success.
You’ll quickly catapult your level of success in your career, and everything else will fall into place because you’ll be living for you.
As Bill Gove, the father of the professional speaking business used to say, “I am responsible to my employees, customers, and business associates, to be honest, sincere, and to act with integrity… but I am not responsible for their attitudes or behavior towards me. I hope they like me. It’s more pleasant that way, but if not, it’s not my problem.”
Steve Siebold is one of the world’s most noted experts in the field of mental toughness training. He is the author of the international best-selling book, 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class. Or visit:Speakerstevesiebold.com and Mentaltoughnesssecrets.com
Photo credit: Flickr / Victor1558